Dec 15 – Environmental Groups and Fairgrounds Reach Agreement to Improve Water Quality

22nd District Agricultural Association Will Take Steps to Improve Water Quality in Stevens Creek and San Dieguito Lagoon Marine Protected Area

  • Local nonprofits applaud changes that will lead to cleaner water
  • Del Mar Fairgrounds to make major infrastructure improvements that will improve water quality in San Dieguito Lagoon and Stevens Creek

SAN DIEGO – December 15, 2017 – The Del Mar Fairgrounds in conjunction with San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) has agreed to a schedule for the completion of significant infrastructure improvements aimed at bringing the Fairgrounds into compliance with applicable clean water requirements and improving water quality from the Fairgrounds Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that services the races and the annual fair.

Improvements resulting from the agreement will include the capture of stormwater from areas of the Fairgrounds where animals are housed, and the treatment of that stormwater before discharge into adjacent sensitive waterways. Additionally, the 22nd District Agricultural Association will contribute over $51,000 to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy to benefit water quality in the San Dieguito River watershed.

“During periods of rainfall, harmful bacteria and pollutants were flowing directly into Stevens Creek and the San Dieguito Lagoon,” said Matt O’Malley, executive director and attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper. “This agreement will help protect sensitive wildlife, as well as the swimmers and surfers who depend on clean water.”

Early last year, Coastkeeper and CERF noted that the Fairgrounds was discharging storm water laden with bacteria from animal waste, dissolved metals, and excess nutrients directly into local waters during specific rain events. The investigations identified possible impacts to Steven Creek, the San Dieguito River, the protected San Dieguito Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, and ultimately, the Pacific Ocean.

Portions of the Fairground’s operations include a large CAFO — the same designation given to large-scale feedlots that house over 700 cows or 2,500 pigs. As such, both federal and state clean water laws impose additional requirements on its operations, which the Fairgrounds has been working to address. In a letter to the Fairgrounds dated March 16, 2016 Coastkeeper and CERF pointed out that these requirements were not being met. With these improvements, the Fairgrounds will be able to capture and treat stormwater from the CAFO areas up to the largest recorded rain event that has occurred in the last twenty-five years.

“This facility is run by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a governmental entity. We expect the government to be at the forefront of environmental compliance. To its credit, the Fairgrounds has stepped up with a major financial commitment to improving water quality in the creek,” stated CERF’s executive director and Coast Law Group LLP attorney, Marco Gonzalez.

The Fairgrounds, in conjunction with Coastkeeper, CERF and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have embarked on a $10,000,000 project that over the next several years will convert the racetrack infield water features into holding ponds, build a constructed wetland, and a treatment plant that will serve to filter pollutants from stormwater before it leaves the Fairgrounds.


Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s bays, beaches, watersheds and ocean for the people and wildlife that depend on them. Coastkeeper balances community outreach, education, and advocacy to promote stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at

CERF is a nonprofit environmental organization founded in 2008 by surfers in North San Diego County and active throughout California’s coastal communities. CERF was established to aggressively advocate, including through litigation, for the protection and enhancement of coastal natural resources and the quality of life for coastal residents.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association is a State of California agency that owns and operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Surfside Race Place, Horsepark Equestrian Center and the Del Mar Golf Center. The 22nd DAA produces three events each year: the San Diego County Fair, the Del Mar National Horse Show and The Scream Zone. The Fairgrounds hosts more than 350 events annually, the largest of which is the live horse racing meet each summer and fall, which is operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for the 22nd DAA and the State of California. For more information about the 2018 San Diego County Fair, visit For general Del Mar Fairgrounds information, visit